41 Pro Google Search Tips for Research, Marketing, and Fun

Imagine my pain:

I wanted to pretend I was using the 1998 iteration of Google search, but couldn’t figure out how.

Since I’m a Google search pro, it was easy to find out and fix the situation so I was able to get some sleep that night:

Such search mastery. Do you want to be a pro like that too? 😉

On a more serious note, in this article I’m going to teach you everything you need to know about using Google (not gaming it, like we’re all usually trying to do).

Google does a pretty good job of making the best resources available to you when you search, but sometimes you’re looking for something annoyingly specific and will need to comb the depths of all the world’s information.

With the right search queries, you can find exactly what you need within one search, and avoid manually filtering out the bad results or missing the right information entirely.

Good Googling skills are essential for writers, researchers, and anyone who has to devise their own solutions to tasks at work. This image from HackCollege explains its power simply:

In this article, I’m going to explain a list of basic operators and search tricks you can use to do the best research, then move onto some Google tricks for marketers and finish with a bit of pointless distraction (like the Google in 1998 trick).

Here are 41 Google search tips to keep in mind or refer back to for when you need to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Use quotes around the query to get exact match results

Google will always try to return the most relevant results, but it’s sometimes too smart for its own good. It’ll substitute out words for synonyms to try and tell you what it thinks you mean. If there comes a time where you need to search for exact wording (something I use almost every day), just put quotes around the phrase, like this:

"68% of it projects"

Use OR, AND, NOT to include or exclude terms from results

Anyone familiar with coding will be easily able to apply boolean logic to Google searches. Even if you’re not familiar with it, it’s easy to learn:

  • OR: returns results from either side of the query. Example: intitle:"saas development" OR intitle:"saas software"
  • AND: returns results from both sides of the query. Example: growth hacks AND youtube
  • NOT: returns results excluding everything after the word NOT. Example: monty python NOT bbc

It’s vital to put the operators in all caps because otherwise Google will treat them as part of the query.

Use - to exclude one specific word from results

What if you wanted to learn all about the town of Rugby, but didn’t want to see anything to do with the sport. You could try something like Rugby -sport. Any time you notice the results being polluted by something irrelevant, use a - to get better, clearer options.

Use + to denote one essential word (disables synonyms)

Google will often act like a thesaurus when you search, substituting words for synonyms slightly, trying to find better results. In some cases, this is a great feature; in others, it can get in the way of finding the best results.

If there’s a word in your search query that should stay exactly the way it is (and be given more importance in the query), prefix it with a +, like this:

scotland +jetty

Use ~ to search synonyms of a word

If you’re unsure as to whether you’re using the exact right word, you can put a ~ sign before it and force Google to search around for synonyms and variations. In contrast to the previous example, if you’re looking for harbors, piers, jetties and marinas in Scotland (not just specifically jetties), you could search like this:

scotland ~jetty

Use intitle: to show only results with a specific word in the title

You can use intitle: multiple times in your query, and combine it with other operators. For example: apartments intitle:florida OR intitle:texas

Use allintitle: at the start of your query to show results containing all words in the title

Unlike intitle:, allintitle: must be used at the start of a query and will force Google to show only results that include every following word in the title.

Use a * for a wildcard word

If you don’t quite remember the title of something, wildcards are wildly (;)) useful. When Google sees a * in your search, it knows that you’re asking it to fill in the gap with any word it can. What about if you needed to find the title of some half-forgotten song from your distant past?

"the cat's in the * and the * spoon"

That might do the trick. But note it works only in quoted strings.

Use AROUND(10) to find results where two words appear within 10 words of each other

This tip is great for when you can remember that two phrases were in the same paragraph or sentence (or need to see all instances of two words being mentioned in the same sentence), but the search results are too broad to get what you need.

Here’s an example of a very narrow search that tells me the three instances where China and Brazil appear close together:

Search within a specific time and date range

There are a few ways to narrow down your search results by date. The most obvious and easiest is to use the dropdown in the Tools menu:

Google used to let you use the bewildering Julian date system (it’s stardate-esque!) and get very specific about the range you want to filter by, but it seems to have retired it now because it’s possible to specify a date range using the same dropdown menu I showed you above by choosing ‘Custom range’.

Use filetype: to find downloadable files

Sometimes using pdf in a search query only gets you so far. By using filetype:pdf, you can force only actual PDF documents to appear. The same goes for mp3, epub, zip, or any other file extension you can think of.

Use site: to get only results from a specific domain

This is easily one of the most useful tips, and I use it almost daily to find articles I can’t remember the title of, or to find articles on specific topics from sources I trust. Searching site:process.st productivity will return all productivity-related pages from only the process.st domain, for example.

Use -pinterest.com in Google Images to get better quality results

Pinterest makes image searching harder. Unlike real image results, it provides exclusively low resolution images you can’t easily save without signing up. So, to get better image results and not “1000+ ideas about X”, exclude Pinterest from image results.

Search in Google News

Google News has its own operators you can use to filter the news to your taste. They include:

  • location:France
  • source:"The Guardian"

Find higher quality version of images

Sometimes you find the perfect image, but it’s so small that it looks terrible in context. The best way to find a higher quality version of that same image is to use reverse image search.

Go to Google Images and hit the camera icon in the search bar.

You can also use this method to find the proper sources for images, and show visually similar images, too.

Use site:news.google.com/newspapers to search inside a huge archive of digital newspaper text

Google has scanned almost a million newspaper pages, going back centuries in history. You can see original coverage of the American Civil War, find famous advertisements in their first incarnation, and find obscure information that may have never otherwise made it to the web. Unfortunately, Google was forced to scrap the project in 2011, but what they managed to scan is still indexed, and the scanned text is searchable.

Use related: to show a list of similar sites

The related: trick doesn’t seem to be talked about very often, but it’s an awesome way to find similar sites and products. By searching related:moz.com I was able to find 5 pages of SEO news sites and products:

Often at Process Street we want to find reading material or blogs that write about specific topics based on what we already know. If you’re looking for sites to add to your RSS feed, using related: could be a great way.

Use .. between numbers to show results containing the full range

I’m not sure why anyone would need to do this — perhaps for price or date ranges — but it’s possible. If you search:

500..1000 piece puzzles

…You’ll get puzzles with anywhere between 500 and 1000 pieces!

Use stocks: to show stock price

If you know the stock ticker symbol, you can get stock information without leaving Google’s result page. In the above example, I’ve done stocks:twtr to check on the status of my favorite ailing tech company.

Easily search for time-zone conversions

I often need to schedule things with people who aren’t in my timezone (because no one is in my timezone). They might say something like “How’s 6pm EST?”, and at that point I’d search like this:

And I’d say, let’s reschedule.

Use in for translations and conversions

Google’s moving away from pushing you to external services for information, and trying to give you as much as it can right inside the search engine:

Examples:

  • hello in russian
  • 30 centimeters in inches
  • 1000 zloty in usd

Use cache: to find the last cached version of a site

If you ever find a result in Google search that’s giving you a 404, you’ve got a couple of options: you can check to see if the page is archived in Archive’s Wayback Machine, or you can search Google for the last cached version of a site. For example:

cache:process.st

If all else fails… try Advanced Search

Queries with multiple operators and complex logic can be hard to write and even harder to make work properly. If all else fails, try Google’s Advanced Search form. You can choose it straight from the Google search page, or click here to go there directly.

Google tricks for SEO and marketing research

Google is so much more than it first seems… Especially if you know how to use it. You can use Google to gauge keyword difficulty, find which sites link to competitor’s blog posts, and find your competitor’s most recently published landing pages.

Find new landing pages published by your competitors

You can use something like the query below if the blog has ‘blog’ in its URLs. (If it doesn’t substitute blog in the query below for another identifier).

site:neilpatel.com -inurl:blog

That query will show you this:

Having a clear idea of your competitors’ trajectory, plans, and marketing material will help you better understand the market.

Estimate comparative keyword difficulty

As a rough rule of thumb, the more people optimizing their content for a keyword (by putting it in the text, in anchor text, and in the title) there are, the harder it will be to rank for it with your content.

With this in mind, we can use Google to estimate comparative keyword difficulty by searching for and comparing the number of times a keyword appears in the title, body or anchor text of Google-indexed sites.

Here are the three queries to do in sequence:

  • allintitle:"open source browser"
  • allintext:"open source browser"
  • allinanchor:"open source browser"

Make note of the number of results from each query.

Then, check those numbers against a different keyword to see how hotly contested or noisy the front page is.

And, while this isn’t as useful as Ahrefs awesome keyword explorer, the data is interesting and a good quick indication of difficulty without needing to pay for an SEO tool.

Search for (often-overlooked) forums

It’s easy to overlook forums. They usually only appear in search results when you’re looking for them, or when Google doesn’t have any long-form blog posts to match your query. That’s because they’re usually older, slower, less active, and thus pretty undesirable for Google to give ranking power to.

However, that doesn’t mean they’re useless. With a good forum, you can generate blog post ideas, create personas, find common customer problems, and see your market talking using their own words so you can write better copy.

Using the below query (swapping out process management for anything you like), you can find most forums and threads on any topic:

process management inurl:forum|forums|discussion|viewthread|showthread|viewtopic|showtopic

Google without local results using google.com/ncr

Living in Latvia, I often get skewed results when I’m googling. Often, I’m Googling as a form of research for marketing purposes, so I absolutely do not need to know about anything in the tiny little land I currently reside.

The solution is simple: go to google.com/ncr. NCR stands for No Country Redirect, and gives you true results from google.com, not google.lv, google.co.uk, or any local versions.

Find the most recently published documents in your industry

If you’re in a niche that doesn’t often stray outside of its closed LinkedIn groups (unlike how marketing has a ton of discovery sites like Inbound.org and GrowthHackers), it can be hard to find the latest white papers and reports unless you’re specifically looking for them.

Need to know the latest stats to cite in blog posts, get some ideas for what to write about, or spy on the competition? Use this query:

process automation filetype:pdf

Here are the goodies I unearthed:

One thing I’d recommend using this for is when you’re hunting for new statistics to back up your claims. You can add percent to the query to be more specific in this case:

process automation ~percent filetype:pdf

To explain, the ~percent asks Google to search for percent and its synonyms. In the case of the above query, it seems to improve results:

Plenty of interesting stats, within 0.41 seconds!

Use Google Trends to discover hot (and dying) topics

Google Trends is excellent for content writers looking to optimize their titles with quality — not obsolete — keywords.

Say you wanted to optimize a page for ‘html templates’. The search volume looks good, the difficulty is low, so why not?

Here’s why not:

For more information about using Google Trends for SEO purposes, check here.

Find relevant gifs for your blog posts

While Giphy is a great place to find gifs, it’s sometimes a pain to get the actual gif file to upload to your blog post. And, even after you’ve navigated that maze, you might find the original file is no bigger than a thumbnail.

To search gifs properly, including Giphy’s huge collection, use Google images with a few modifiers:

star trek filetype:gif

…And then use the menu bar that pops up to filter by ‘animated’. You can also filter out tiny images using the size filter.

Just-for-fun Google tricks

Google’s 70,000 employees get to spend 20% of their time on whatever they want to work on. As you can imagine, that results in Google’s products — especially search — getting rammed full of easter eggs. Not just Google Doodles on relevant days, but thing that you can search to reveal a hidden gem.

Search Google like it’s 1998

Search google in 1998.

*futuristic cyber-tones play in the background*

Search <blink> to activate nostalgic Geocities-mode

Remember when every Webmaster’s Home Page in Cyberspace used to have all manner of blinking text?

Now you can replicate this (subtly) in Google.

<blink>

Find a Mario easter egg

All searches for super mario bros will reveal a tiny ? block from the Mario games.

Click it for an infinite amount of coins.

Play the 1976 Atari game Breakout inside Google Images

Go to Google Images and type atari breakout.

At first, it seems like it’s just your every day Google search, but if you hit the left and right arrows, the image results turn into breakable blocks in a full-blown browser game.

Flip a coin without leaving Google search

At any given moment, it’s more likely I have my phone in my pocket than a coin. And what if I need to resolve almost any dispute ever and can’t just flip a coin?

flip a coin

Simulate Conway’s Game of Life in search results

Devised in 1970, John Conway’s Game of Life isn’t a game as such, but it is a simulation. The script generates random pixels on the canvas, and then 4 rules decide what happens next:

  1. Any live cell with fewer than two live neighbours dies, as if caused by underpopulation.
  2. Any live cell with two or three live neighbours lives on to the next generation.
  3. Any live cell with more than three live neighbours dies, as if by overpopulation.
  4. Any dead cell with exactly three live neighbours becomes a live cell, as if by reproduction.

Try it yourself. Look in the top right of the screen after googling:

conway's game of life

Search askew to tilt Google results

Thoroughly useless.

Relive a Starcraft player’s nightmare with Zerg Rush

Anyone who’s played Starcraft will know the joy of getting Zerg rushed…

Now, anyone who types zerg rush into Google can enjoy it, too. The object is to click as quickly as possible on as many of the falling Google ‘O’s on the screen as you can.

I hope you’re better at this than I am.

Hit ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ while the box is empty to get random facts

Go to google.com and hit ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ without typing anything. It’ll immediately redirect to a search: I'm Feeling Curious, and spin you out a quick fact!

Google might think you’re a robot if you’re doing advanced searches 🤖

After numerous snags because Google thought I was a robot (I got collared by google.com/sorry)…

…I think I’ve done my job of finding, testing, and writing about the best Google search tips out there, but let me know in the comments if I’ve missed out something you think is particularly useful.

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Benjamin Brandall

Benjamin Brandall is a content marketer at Process Street, and runs Secret Cave on the side. Find him on Twitter here.


13 Comments

Hi, Benjamin! Really useful info, thanks
I need another one tip on seo tools. I found tool called SERPStat. What can you say about it? Seems great, but I want to hear expert opinion

Its really a great post on Google search tips. One post is saved. One thing I can’t but tell; the article is about 41 tips. But in article there is not number in points. It could make reader focused on each tips easily. However, really great. I read again and again.

rugy(one space or two spaces)-sport give both tow rugby map and some rugby fixtures. needs some clarification

To clarify, only engineers at Google used to get that 20% time for their own projects. The rest got 20% overtime without pay 🙂
Great article, though. Ex Googler.

Hi! Quick question that’s completely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly?
My web site looks weird when browsing from my iphone.
I’m trying to find a template or plugin that might be able to fix this problem.
If you have any recommendations, please share. Many thanks!


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